ASUCD elections, though a marginal interest for over 70 percent of nonvoting students, produced relatively radical results this year. Progressive independent candidates were elected to executive office while TGIF, which by all logic should have been favored without reservation, was voted overwhelmingly against.
LEAD’s campaign against TGIF stank of hypocrisy, cowardice and sabotage of the very system they ran.
TGIF was killed. The culprit was LEAD. As I’m certain most of you saw, the ‘No on TGIF‘ campaign that was staffed by 100 percent LEAD members who worked hard to popularize the No vote. The issues LEAD listed against TGIF became pocket rebuttals that were well in mind when Davis students went to the digital voting booth. Every single rebuttal was wrong. Stupid wrong.
The biggest two arguments against TGIF were based on the makeup of the Grant-Making Committee. The fund created by TGIF would be regulated by a board of seven people who would determine which proposed projects to fund.
Opponents argued that the presence of a Student Housing advisor on the board would lead to conflicts of interest – that the SH official would go mad with power and fund only housing-related projects, cackling darkly in a high-backed chair as they stroked a hairless sphinx on their lap.
However, such conflicts simply would not arise. There are built in safeguards against conflicts of interest on grant-making boards that are stringently enforced. If a conflict of interest would arise, the SH advisor would be obligated to make this conflict known to the rest of the board and abstain from voting on the project. Should they not, their nepotism would be publicized and they would be asked to step down from the board. LEAD’s use of this fallacious argument only works if they claim ignorance of grant-making SOPs.
LEAD also asserted that the inclusion of administrative advisors on the board carried with it a taint of status quo. In reality, this was a requirement for the creation of a fund, as otherwise TGIF would simply be a pile of money. The board would be controlled primarily by students, which was one of TGIF’s strengths – giving students the power to determine how a portion of their fees are spent.
Perhaps the silliest of arguments against TGIF was that it posed a financial hardship. First, it’s four bucks. Second, TGIF represented a 0.17 percent fee hike, and UCD student fees are increasing next year by a minimum of 8 percent whether we like it or not (and we don’t). Third, 25 percent of it would be spent to avoid putting pressure on students of financial need or those with need-based Pell Grants. Again LEAD has to claim ignorance of school policy to fly this argument, which should be getting you to wonder why we elect these people.
Another LEAD argument: that similar programs had been tried and failed because of lack in student interest or education in sustainability. This is straight-up denial of fact. Sustainability at UC Davis has gathered so much momentum in the last couple of years that admins created a new office last quarter, one of Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability.
The Sustainability Grant Fund at Davis (basically a miniature TGIF) was so successful in its first year that the cash pool was ratcheted up from $18,000 to $25,000, and they still had to turn away scores of proposed projects. The TGIF at UC Berkeley showed no sign of student disinterest, as the $250K fund got applications that amounted to $1.2 million. Trial balloons had already been floated, so where’s the beef?
Also, it’s worth noting that LEAD is saying in this case that we students are simply too lazy or dimwitted to make use of our own money. They, of course, are fully qualified to command our quarterly $42. The word ‘elitism‘ makes me yawn, but there it is.
Graduate chemistry student and ‘Yes on TGIF‘ campaigner Jay Erker put LEAD’s arguments in summary: “All the issues they listed were only issues if you assumed the absolute worst in people.” Obviously, LEAD is not a fan of free love.
LEAD didn’t just have awful arguments – they had equally awful tactics, which is part of the game as a ‘No‘ campaign. They had nothing to lose. If a ‘No‘ campaign violates ASUCD protocol, they’re punished by community service hours. If a ‘Yes‘ campaign violates ASUCD protocol, the whole ballot initiative is aborted, meaning TGIF would have been dead on arrival if the ‘Yes‘ campaign didn’t toe the line.
The ‘No on TGIF‘ campaign denied breaking any rules, but signs against TGIF appeared in no-sign zones and flagrantly ignored sign content standards. This means either the campaigners lied or they received a phantom assist from; gosh, I can’t think just who.
Also, LEAD was hesitant to debate TGIF, despite their unilateral opposition of the measure. The ‘No‘ campaign was invited to two debate events hosted by the ‘Yes‘ campaign and never showed.
At ASUCD-hosted debates, the Yes-ers were barred from appearing because of ASUCD bylaws. Which is odd, because they had argued against TGIF like they knew nothing about procedure.
TGIF was shut down before the election even began. Independent senator, now president, Joe Chatham brought up TGIF at every ASUCD meeting he attended, but was met by a complete lack of interest. “I think there would have been more support from ASUCD if I had not been running against LEAD for the executive office,” Chatham said, “which would have allowed LEAD to take the political credit.“
LEAD, the largest political party in any ASUCD election, moved to monolithically oppose The Green Initiative Fund. They pulled strings of party lines rather than building on rational analysis. In so much jargon, TGIF was a good and simple thing that was destroyed by systemic inequality that extends from ASUCD law to my very employer. My investigation has been eerie, but after facing down YONET last week, I think I can take any heat ‘The Man‘ has got.
Although defeated, the ‘Yes‘ campaigners remain upbeat and optimistic. After all, their proposal turned out the second-largest voting bloc in Davis history with funds a fraction of their competition. Erker and Jabusch say they plan on reintroducing a similar initiative next year. As you help to nail the lid on TGIF’s undeserved coffin, I implore you to keep your heads about you next year. Vote ‘YES‘ on any damn thing that gives students more say in how their money is spent, especially if it means a greener, cheaper and healthier campus.
CHEYA CARY is being Zen about publishing the abridged version of this column. If you enjoyed this, hated this or are just interested in a flamewar, send him an e-mail at email@example.com.